Eamon O'Shea's mark stamped all over fluent and flowering Tipp
Premier men beginning to hurl with fearless freedom of expression that innovative boss encourages from his players
Published 23/06/2015 | 02:30
Ken Hogan remembers Eamon O'Shea when the Tipperary manager was strutting his stuff as a player with Kilruane MacDonaghs.
Nominal positions didn't mean a whole lot to O'Shea back then as he sometimes ran from one wing-forward position to the other, something practically unheard of at the time.
It was very much old-style hip-to-hip hurling in the late 1970s and into the '80s when O'Shea was in his pomp.
Even then he was different - and now he encourages his players to join him out of left field. O'Shea wants his Tipp team to hurl in his image.
Movement, creation of space and freedom of expression are hallmarks of his philosophy.
He loves the type of game intelligence that's based on instinct, like the run made by Lar Corbett to collect Noel McGrath's pass in the 2010 All-Ireland final against Kilkenny.
He loves forwards that work hard and fire over the kind of gorgeous scores that John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer treated over 30,000 spectators to in Limerick on Sunday.
He loves double acts too and in O'Dwyer and Seamus Callanan, he has hurling's dynamic duo, a terrible twosome, Tipperary's twin terrors.
O'Dwyer and Callanan have taken over the burden of scoring responsibility from Eoin Kelly and Corbett, who followed in the footsteps of Pat Fox and Nicky English.
From a tally of 4-23 on Sunday, O'Dwyer and Callanan helped themselves to 2-12 and having collected All Stars last year, there's already a fair chance they'll be ordering tuxedos again in the autumn.
Liam Sheedy, Tipp's 2010 All-Ireland winning boss, was in Limerick on Sunday, and he said: "Bubbles got a point in front of me, took the ball off Seamus Hickey, one turn, bang, over the bar.
"The talent that exists within that forward line, with the ability to score goals and points. . . I'm sure a lot of people were looking on and it sent a shiver down a few spines."
There are distinct parallels between the partnership that exists between Callanan and O'Dwyer, and what Kelly and Corbett once had.
Callanan and O'Dwyer score freely, as did their predecessors, who have collected half a century of Championship goals between them.
Callanan reached a milestone on Sunday, his 21st Championship goal matching Kelly's haul.
It doesn't stop there. Kelly hails from the South, as O'Dwyer does. Corbett is a Mid man, as is Callanan. Divided by borders, united in talent.
For Callanan's first goal against Limerick on Sunday, O'Dwyer supplied the assist. It looked simple enough in real time but Kelly, speaking to local radio last night, insisted that it was far from routine.
He said: "Even the ball he (O'Dwyer) flicked to Seamus Callanan, not too many people can actually do that.
"It was a perfect pass but Bubbles is a team player as well. He seems to do the right thing with the ball every time he wins possession.
"And it's in the crunch games, a point or two in it maybe down the road in Munster or at Croke Park, when you need to give the right option.
"He has that hurling brain, when he gets the ball in hand. He's lethal and a lot of people in the country love seeing him in action. On Sunday, he was a joy to watch."
That remarkable moment in last year's All-Ireland semi-final against Cork, when O'Dwyer covered half the width of the pitch to get in a block on Damien Cahalane, provided evidence to debunk the myth that he's a player lacking in workrate.
Hogan, who managed O'Dwyer for three seasons as the county's U-21 manager, is one of the Killenaule star's biggest fans.
He insisted: "He should have come on the scene sooner, as a 19-year-old in 2011.
"He had the ability to do things that were different. He didn't make the team until two years ago but I always thought he was an outstanding prospect.
"While Bubbles can be seen as a free spirit, he was my captain for my final year (with the U-21s) and he played unbelievable stuff. He has a hurling brain; he's a hurling man who wants to win hurling matches."
In his role as goalkeeping coach last year, Hogan was also offered a glimpse into Callanan's modus operandi, and liked what he saw.
He added: "I came in with the impression that Seamie was a sort of off-the-cuff hurler but I was very impressed with his work ethic in training and the way he committed himself."
Behind the scenes, O'Shea is the puppeteer and provides the canvas on which gifted players paint pretty pictures.
And Hogan said: "I played against Eamon at club level - he was ahead of his time when we played because of the fact that he would run from one wing to the other. That was unheard of, for a club or county player to do that kind of thing.
"He takes delight in seeing players throwing caution to the wind, moving across the pitch. For one of Bubbles' scores, he could have put his hand on his shoulder, he was that close."